What is Slovak Food?
What is Slovak food? I have never heard of it!
You are not alone. The traditional food of Slovakia is not exactly well known around the world. And this is a huge shame. Slovak may not be the most low-fat cuisine out there (but then, little fat is good for you), but it is very wholesome, down-to-earth cooking. It’s like spending everyday at your grandparents. Slovak food is very cheap, easy to cook, and best of all, extremely delicious!
The cuisine has its origin in the diverse Slovak geography. The landscapes vary from flat lowlands of the Danube valley in the south, through the wine producing Tokaj region in the east, to the snow-capped alpine peaks of the Tatra mountains in the north. Traditionally, Slovakia was a land of simple peasants, who spent their days working in the fields or watching after sheep in the mountains. The cuisine evolved from the ingredients people grew in their gardens, or from the products of the animals they raised. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and onions make the basis of many dishes. These are supplemented by chicken, pork, and to a lesser degree beef. And then there are the sheep. Besides mutton (which isn’t actually all that common), sheep produced various cheese products, including a feta-like cheese called bryndza and the smoked cheese oštiepok.
I put this page to give you a better idea of the kinds of dishes people eat in Slovakia (and to a large extent also in the Czech republic). It highlights some of my favorite dishes, with links to the recipes. It will also give you an idea of the kinds of dishes you may expect to find in a typical Slovak restaurant.
My favorite Slovak dishes
My favorite Slovak dish, by far, is kapustnica, sauerkraut soup made with smoked meats and dried mushrooms. This soup has such a great taste and is also quite filling. It is traditionally eaten on Christmas as the first course followed by fried fish with potato salad, another of my favorites. If there is only one dish you make from this website, make sure it is kapustnica. You will not regret it. It really is delicious. It is especially good the day after you make it. There is something about the soup sitting in the fridge overnight that makes the flavor really come out.
Another of my favorites are plum dumplings. These are not very common in restaurants, but are one of those grandma recipes you could always count on when visiting grandparents in the country. Although they are sweet, they are eaten as the main course. My grandma would typically first serve me chicken noodle soup (with home-made noodles!), and then bring out plum dumplings. She would often top them with crushed walnuts instead of poppy seeds. This is another dish you should try making. They are quite easy to prepare and have a taste much different from anything commonly available in the United States. Another great sweet treat are buchty, sweet dough buns filled with cottage cheese, jam, or poppy seed mix. During Christmas, the holiday table will contain a wide assortment of sweets, such as rum balls and bear paws.
A great meaty main dish is segedin goulash. This is a stew consisting of pork and sauerkraut, and is served with steamed dumplings. Steamed dumplings are very typical of the Czech and Slovak kitchens. They are called knedle in our language. They are little tedious to prepare (since you need to wait for the dough to rise) but will give your dish quite a different character. Knedle are used to soak up juices in your dish and as such go really well with stews and saucy dishes. You will also find them served with stuffed peppers. And of course, there is the Slovak national dish, bryndzové halušky. This is something I always make sure to order when I visit Slovakia. Unfortunately, the main ingredient, bryndza cheese, is not widely available in the United States and must be special ordered. Bryndza is also used to make pierogi. Finally, Slovaks love to eat rezeň, meaning breaded steak or schnitzel. There are many varieties but one that I particularly like is schnitzel with bacon and cheese.
Finally, when it comes to breakfast and snacks, I recommend you try hemendex. It consists of few slices of fried ham over which you cook couple eggs sunny side up. It makes for a good alternative to scrambled eggs or an omelet. I also like making potato pancakes. These are similar to latkes, but are seasoned with few additional spices such as garlic, marjoram, onion and black pepper. You can serve them with soup if you are looking for a light dinner.
slovakcooking.com is dedicated to traditional Slovak recipes. If you are interested in Slovak recipes with an American twist, check out my friend’s Slovak-American fusion recipe site.